Festival celebrates Maldives manta hotspot
The first Baa Atoll Manta Festival has been held in the Maldives, aimed at involving the local community and especially its younger people in appreciating and protecting the famed UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which attracts many thousands of visitors each year.
Organised by the Manta Trust in partnership with the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Four Seasons, Baa Atoll Council and Dharavandhoo Council, the festival was sponsored by 12 luxury tourist resorts in Baa Atoll, supported by local guesthouses and dive-centres. It took place on the island of Dharavandhoo on 24 November and was attended by an estimated 1000 visitors, including students from 11 local schools.
3 December 2018
The sponsors had earlier donated 222 sets of Cressi snorkelling equipment to 14 schools in Baa and Raa and provided snorkelling lessons for more than 100 students. This training continued at the festival, as more than 200 students were encouraged to explore Dharavandhoo reef – many for the first time, says the Manta Trust.
Guest of honour ex-Maldives president and scuba-diver Mohamed Nasheed addressed the crowds on the importance of sustainable development in the Maldives.
Also present was the current Environment Minister Dr Hussain Rasheed Hassan, and guest speaker Zoona Naseem, the first female Maldivian PADI Course Director. She addressed the importance of encouraging more females to participate in water-based activities throughout the Maldives.
Environmental issues covered included turtle-poaching, bycatch and plastic pollution, but the underwater world was celebrated through photo and art competitions, marine-themed stalls, presentations, art and musical performances and, as the sun set, 200 students creating the image of a huge manta ray on the beach.
“The Baa Atoll Manta Festival was a huge success, with the greatest achievement being getting so many young Maldivians engaged with the ocean, helping to achieve our dream of creating a generation of ocean guardians through this initiative and inspiring young women to engage with the ocean,” said Flossy Barraud of the Manta Trust.
“The partners will continue to work towards this goal throughout the year, and look forward to an even bigger and better event in 2019”.